Friday, October 30, 2015

Ye Must Be Born Again

John 2:23-3:21

“Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.  But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.” (John 2:23-25)

While Jesus was in Jerusalem on this first trip, the miracles he did convince many he was the Messiah.  He didn’t make a point of it or call attention to the fact, because he knew human nature, and that they would be more firmly convinced if they came to that conclusion on their own as a result of watching what he did.   After all, actions speak louder than words.

“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. “ (John 3:1-2)

One night, while he was there, a man by the name of Nicodemus came to talk to Jesus at night,  He was a Pharisee and a member of the council, and knew many of the Pharisees opposed Jesus for having driven out the business men from the Temple.   Being seen talking to Jesus could well hurt his reputation, but he was sincere about his religion and couldn’t just dismiss what Jesus said out of hand.  He was convinced that Jesus could only do those miracles if he was empowered by God.

“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?” (John 3:3-4)

The Jews, and especially the Pharisees were convinced that keeping the Law would enable them to go to heaven.   Jesus clearly challenged that long held belief, stating that without a rebirth, a person couldn’t see God’s kingdom.   People who are depending on their own efforts to get them to heaven live everyday with the possibility they have missed something, he was fully aware that he was not perfect, and Jesus’s comment struck at the heart of his concerns.  He asked how a person could be reborn since it was apparent one couldn’t go back into the mother’s womb. 

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.  The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)

During pregnancy, a baby is carried in in the womb, surrounded by Amniotic fluid.  At birth, the membrane holding the amniotic fluid ruptures and the fluid drains away, enabling the baby to be born.  This is known as the water breaking, and when Jesus speaks of a person being born of water this is what he was referring to.  What Jesus said was that person must have both a physical birth, and a spiritual birth in order to go into heaven.   While the physical birth can be observed, the spiritual birth is like the wind.  One can see or hear the effects, but cannot see the wind itself. 

Paul makes a similar comparison between the Physical and the spiritual in I Corinthians 15:45-47.  “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.  Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.  The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.”  The physical birth must come before the spiritual birth. 

“Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?

Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?  Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.  If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?  And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” (John 3:9-13)

Jesus made the point that none Nicodemus’ studies preparing to lead the Jews had addressed this issue, because people can only teach what they know.   If it is hard to understand things when they are expressed in earthly terms we can visualize, how can we understand heavenly things we have never seen?  After all, one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who came from heaven.  This is the son of man also known as the Messiah.    We simply have to accept or reject those things by faith. 

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:14-17)

In Numbers 21, God sent serpents to bite the people because of their complaining.  Moses was instructed to place a brass serpent on a pole and anyone who took the trouble to look up at it would survive the snakebite.  Jesus used this as an illustration of what would happen when he was crucified.  Anyone who believed in Him would be saved because of their faith, just as anyone who looked at the serpent would be.  While God sent the serpents to punish the Jews he gave the brazen serpent to provide a cure.  In the same way, god sends judgment on the world, but because he loves people, he has provided that they can be saved by simply turning to Christ in faith.   The brass snake did not cause people to get bitten, but it provided a way of curing those who had been.  In the same way, Christ does not condemn people to hell, but provides a way for them to avoid it. 

“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.  But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:18-21)

A person who believes in Christ, like the person who looked at the brass snake, has already been healed.  The person who does not believe is like the person who had been bitten but refused to look, insisting it won’t work and he doesn’t want to see another snake.  People refuse to believe in Christ because their actions are wicked and they do not want to face that fact.  Wicked people refuse to acknowledge what they have done is wrong so they avoid coming to Christ, because he makes them aware of their sin. 

Those who want to do right come to Christ so they can have their sin taken away.  I John 1:8-10 states, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”  If we refuse to confess it, we are not saved and, and indicate we don’t believe in him, essentially calling him a liar.   

Though Nicodemus makes no profession of faith at this time, it is obvious he believed , albeit secretly, incurring the displeasure of the Pharisees in John 7:47-53.  “Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived?  Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?  But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.  Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?   They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.  And every man went unto his own house.” 

In John 19:39-42, he  also helped Joseph of arimathaea bury the Lord.   “And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.   Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.  Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.  There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.”

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